The latest reincarnation of Dux de Lux, Dux Dine is drawing vegetarians to Riccarton.
Dux de Lux was always one of those go-to places for a reliable, rather than flashy, vegetarian or seafood meal. The February 2011 earthquake scuppered its prime position in the Arts Centre and split the operation in two.
Dux Live is a music venue and bar in Addington, while Dux Dine opened in Riccarton Rd in November with the bold claim of offering food "better than ever".
Dux Dine phones us on the day of our booking to confirm we're still dining and to ask if we fancy an outdoor table. With a howling southerly wind, fat chance.
On arrival, we instantly love the street appeal of the blue villa and the peacock-hued lounge where we wait to be seated. Happily, our table is in the sunroom, overlooking a garden with a raised square of grass (a nod to the old Dux?) and a lily pond.
I've been hankering for a Ginger Tom beer ($7.50 for 380ml) to break a two-year drought, while my hungry cyclist partner, Neill, opts for a glass of Craggy Range Te Kahu blend from Hawke's Bay ($10). Predictably, the beer is handed to Neill and the wine to me.
The delight for vegetarians such as me is having five mains from which to choose, and double the number of options if you eat seafood. We share semolina flat bread, with olives and dips, for starters.
On the grounds that you should order meals you don't cook at home, I opt for the massaman curry ($26). According to the chatty waitress, the restaurant owner's wife orders it every time she visits, so I hope I'm on to a winner. Neill picks the fish of the day ($29) over the Akaroa salmon, seafood pasta, groper and mussels. And he elects to have the gurnard baked in lime and coriander, rather than pan-fried. The prices seem a nudge higher than the old Dux, but the dishes also sound more complex.
On the waitress's recommendation, Neill orders a Coopers Creek syrah ($9.50 a glass) and when he declares it delicious, she "whoops" and punches the air. We laugh, thinking her high spirits beat cool indifference.
The curry is a beautifully balanced medley of chick peas and fresh vegetables, including baby carrots, shoots and tender asparagus, infused with coriander and coconut milk. It comes with a scoop of jasmine rice and is topped with crispy tofu wafers. The aroma makes my mouth water and the spicy creaminess of the dish is perfect after the ginger beer.
Neill has enough room for the last spoonfuls of curry, after his velvet-soft fish, with chunky polenta chips and fresh garden salad.
It would be churlish not to try at least one of the four dessert options recited by the waitress, so we share tiramisu ($12). It is thoughtfully presented, topped with strawberries and a yellow pansy. The dessert is moist and mousse-like, and crowned with cream, but there's a twist - a B52 shot alongside. Unsure whether to pour it over or drink it, we do the latter. The waitress says she prefers to pour over, but anything goes.
On squaring the bill, we meet a friendly young Irish staff member who has arrived in Christchurch post-quake. Tell all your friends to come over, I joke. "They're already here," he says.
Driving home, we have to agree with the restaurant's claim - it is better than before. We're looking forward to working our way through the other dinner options and another Ginger Tom.
Where: 28 Riccarton Rd.
Prices: Worth the price rise.